Canadian Ambassador’s Mission: Strengthen Ukraine’s Defense and EU Entry Ambitions

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When she arrived in Kyiv last month, the newly appointed Canadian ambassador to Ukraine, Natalka Cmoc, couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. It reminded of her experiences in the ’90s working in Ukraine, freshly independent and with countless soldiers returning from the war in Afghanistan, maimed and missing limbs.

Cmoc professes a deep affection for Ukraine. This is her latest of many trips since the country achieved independence in 1991. Merely two weeks into her one-year term and she already anticipates the dread of air-raid sirens, cautioning that she may suddenly need to seek shelter during the early hours of the morning.

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Cmoc’s mission in Kyiv is twofold. First, to support Ukraine’s pressing defence and security needs, combating all forms of Russian aggression and engaging her counterparts from the G7 countries stationed in Kyiv. The long-term goal revolves around preparing Ukraine for entry into the European Union and NATO, supporting reforms, reconstruction and humanitarian aid efforts.

She admits that her role is to orchestrate these undertakings on multiple fronts and foster clear communication between Ottawa and Kyiv. She recognizes Ukraine’s progress in its counteroffensive, operating a NATO military tactic aimed at minimizing fatalities. This stands in contrast to Russia’s approach to combat, which she likens to a ‘meat-grinder.’

Canadian support, however, extends further than just military aid. The long-term vision involves aiding Ukraine in establishing a ‘greener’ and more democratic society. Accompanied by diplomatic staff members expected to total to 22 by October, their responsibilities will include everything from evaluating mine-removal projects to funding initiatives aimed at promoting women into roles abandoned by men sent to the front lines.

Additional efforts will be directed towards aiding Ukrainian nuclear safety experts to prevent ecological and nuclear disasters at energy plants due to the war. Cmoc mentions the Kherson region’s present reconstruction efforts in the wake of the destruction of a colossal dam in June, as a preview of what’s to come post-war. Countries like Canada stand ready to assist locals, equipping them with tools for farming, sourcing safe water and energy. These initiatives are also designed to position Ukraine as a rewarding destination for private-sector investments after the war.

Before her ambassadorial role, Cmoc invested ten years in various federal roles in Ottawa. Her experience includes a stint as a technical expert in Canada’s former aid department, focusing on human-rights and election-monitoring missions and participating in Canada’s peace and stabilization operations program. It’s these early experiences that have guided her present responsibilities.

Despite agreeing on most issues, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing between Canada and Ukraine. Controversial requests for a no-fly zone and discord over certain U.S. decisions have posed challenges. Requests from Ukraine for additional anti-landmine support and extended military funding will also be on Cmoc’s plate.

In her new role, Cmoc is also focused on bolstering Canada’s involvement in anti-corruption schemes in Ukraine, predominantly through training judges and forensic auditors. These is a crucial stipulation for Ukraine’s EU accession.

Despite the daunting circumstances faced by the war-torn country, Cmoc expressed being profoundly moved by the unity demonstrated by Ukrainians, even transcending historical linguistics divides and strained minority relations. To witness a new generation suffering in the way of its predecessors is unsettling, and yet, Cmoc accepts her new mission wholeheartedly, seeing it as an honour to serve a land so close to her heart.